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The Power of Just Doing Stuff

Doing stuff doesn’t get much better, I think, as I sit on the lawn among friends, sipping rosé, summer sun shining. Indian rhythms and children laughing fill the air. Women are dancing in the shade of a mighty tree. I’m paging through The Power of Just Doing Stuff. It could be like this every weekend, we say to each other.

I’m at the Tagore Festival, which celebrates the life and work of Rabindranath Tagore with a three-day programme of talks, music, performance, food, and drink.  Schumacher College has put up a big tipi-type tent where they’re hosting a series of ‘wild ideas’ talks, including Rob Hopkins on Saturday.  Today is Sunday and we (TTT) have organised a full programme of activities we’re calling, “What if we all did something?”

At midday, we held a space for people to come and share their stories and about what they’re doing, or would like to do. If evidence was needed to support one of the central tenets of the book, that the act of trying to do something that might make a difference in the world creates its own energy, is personally empowering, even liberating, it was here in the stories that people shared. Doing something can also be a little intimidating, scary. We shared stories about that, too. There’s power in sharing stories.

It was a good day for TTT because we listened to lots of people, many of whom walked away activated, resolved to put some new insight to good use. All of us could have been somewhere else. The beach, maybe. Or we could have simply lolled about on the lawn, suspended for the weekend in this lovely cocoon of heady ideas and sensuality. Yay us!, I guess.  Praise us for our sacrifice - except don’t, because actually we all had a fabulous time, ‘Bob’, Karen, Hal, Inez, Jacqi, Jan and me. No place else we’d rather be. This stuff we’re doing is fun and satisfying. I’m thinking now about the guy from a village in mid Devon, the guy Inez and I talked with about the nature of the global economy and the possibility of ground up, needs-based economics, led by local people not faceless shareholders. I think we helped him to ‘switch on’. He bought the book.

What would it be like if we all did something? It could be like that, effortless and fun, like a shiny happy day in a park, with music and ideas, etc, etc. It is a seductive dream.

The best part about this book is that it does a great job selling this positive vision of community-led action. And why not? It is absolutely spot on. Community-led change is making a huge difference where it’s happening and could make the difference if everyone rose up to the challenges we face.

In this regard, one can’t help but see the transition movement as a current in the much larger stream of a global social/economic/environmental justice movement that has been developing for the last several decades. Paul Hawken wrote of the Blessed Unrest and, at times, this book acknowledges Transition’s place in this broader context. Seen in this light, is "local and resilient" the “new Big Idea”? I’m not so sure. Considering what’s happening in Turkey and Brazil right now, and the past couple of years of Occupy, 15-M in Spain, the Arab Spring, might there be some other big ideas and analyses to consider?

Those questions aside, Power of Just Doing Stuff is aimed mostly at an audience new to community organising, or to the Transition model, anyway. It’s very well written and a quick, inspiring read. There’s plenty there to inspire the most experienced community activist, too. It's a fantastic book by a tireless and dedicated activist with an unshakable positive vision. I’m taking away lots of ideas and new energy. I think you will, too.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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